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Officials seek new TV cameras

Move to add studio equipment is part of on-going fight to keep local-access station open

Posted: April 13, 2009 1:50 a.m.
Updated: April 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

As Santa Clarita officials work to keep local TV programming on the air, their focus is trained on securing the right equipment for the job.

The city has put out a request for bids for an in-studio camera package for the Channel 20 studio located off Railroad Avenue in Newhall.

Under a state law that went into effect in 2007, Time Warner Cable no longer has to provide production support for Channel 20 - also known as the Public, Educational and Governmental Access channel. Instead, it's required only to provide the facilities.

However, the equipment Time Warner left the city with was out of date, city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said.

As part of state law, AT&T and Time Warner are required to provide 1 percent of their annual gross revenue for local access stations, according to Kevin Tonoian, the city's technology services manager.

The city received $150,000 in December, he said, and so far about $82,000 has been spent on new equipment or on refurbishing equipment left by Time Warner.

Tonoian said Time Warner has been providing funds since January 2008. The cable channel spent between $250,000 and $300,000 annually to operate the station.

The City Council awarded a contract to SCVTV last December to operate the channel.

The approval included $25,000 from the city's general fund to keep the channel in operation. The money allowed for the hiring of one paid staff member. Additional staff members work as volunteers.

The studio camera package the city is hoping to secure comprises three Sony cameras, Communications Specialist Evan Thomason said.

The city is also upgrading the studio's graphics and playback systems, he said.

Before the year is out, he expects "residents will notice enhanced picture quality."

In the past three months, 40 Southland public access studios have shut down because of Time Warner's pullout, Ortiz said.

"We don't want ours to go that way," she said.

Ortiz said discussions are ongoing to form a joint-powers agreement including, for instance, SCVTV and radio station KTHS-1220AM, with the city as an overseer. Additionally, she said officials want the channel to serve as an educational tool for media classes from local schools.

"If we could spend money on operations and management, that would be great," Ortiz said. "We need two to four people to be viable."


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